Saturday, August 16, 2014

In short: Hannie Caulder (1971)

When bandit brothers Emmett (Ernest Borgnine), Frank (Jack Elam) and Rufus (Strother Martin), murder her husband, rape her, burn down her home, and only leave her with a single blanket she’ll become rather found of as a shirt replacement for the rest of the film, young Hannie Caulder (Raquel Welch) decides vengeance is her goal now. As a very convenient turn of events will have it, the next man she meets is legendary bounty hunter Thomas Luther Price (Robert Culp).

At first, Tom declines teaching her the ways of the gun, but after repeated begging, he changes his mind. Soon, Tom finds himself falling in love, and Hannie gets to wear a gun made by legendary weapon smith Bailey (Christopher “Southern” Lee). After a bit of training, it’s off to the races.

And that’s really the film’s whole plot, if you even want to call it that. The way it is presented, it’s not as if director Burt Kennedy was aiming for anything archetypal with this lack of…well, anything. Because what Kennedy’s aiming at more often than not is Raquel Welch’s ass, or some of those coy shots of side thigh films who try try to mold themselves after Spaghetti Westerns but are actually too stuffy for anything as honest as actual nudity (plus, Welch didn’t really do nudity).

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, at least half of the film, and probably all of the reasons for its existence, is to show off Raquel Welch again, and while I’m not immune to her charms, I really wish the people involved – the main guilty party here being good old British Tigon productions – would have bothered with making an actual movie around her. Oh ,there are promising bits and pieces, particularly Edward Scaife’s often very pretty photography, but for every fine shot, there’s at least half a dozen wasted opportunities here, and many a puzzling script and direction decision.

Why, for example, play Hannie’s arch enemies like comedic freaks reminding me of the Three Stooges instead of as dangerous monstrous people? Why use the rape revenge angle when your film is neither prepared to get truly nasty or unpleasant about it, nor has the ability to become as emotionally harrowing as the matter needs? What’s up with the ridiculous slow motion in some of the shoot-outs? Why not hire a better actress for your lead? Oh, right, the answer to that last question is of course clear: because this isn’t a movie so much as a pretty boring and problematic way of showing off said lead.

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